Excerpt from Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Everything Inside

by Edwidge Danticat

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat X
Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat
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    Aug 2019, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Dosas

Elsie was with Gaspard, her live-­in renal-­failure patient, when her ex-­husband called to inform her that his girlfriend, Olivia, had been kidnapped in Port-­au-­Prince. Elsie had just fed Gaspard some cabbage soup when her cell phone rang. Gaspard was lying in bed, his head carefully propped on two pillows, his bloated and pitted face angled toward the bedroom skylight, which allowed him a slanted view of a giant coconut palm that for years had been leaning over the lakeside house in Gaspard's single-­family development.

Elsie pressed the phone between her left ear and shoulder and used her right hand to wipe a lingering piece of cabbage from Gaspard's chin. Waving both hands as though conducting an orchestra, Gaspard signaled to her not to leave the room while motioning for her to carry on with her conversation. Turning her attention from Gaspard to the phone, Elsie moved it closer to her lips and asked, "Ki lè?"

"This morning." Sounding hoarse and exhausted, Blaise, the ex-­husband, jumbled his words. His usual singsong tone, which Elsie attributed to his actually being a singer, was gone. It was replaced by a nearly inaudible whisper. "She was leaving her mother's house," he continued. "Two men grabbed her, pushed her into a car, and drove off."

Elsie could imagine Blaise sitting, or standing, just as she was, with his cell phone trapped between his long neck and narrow shoulders, while he used his hands to pick at his fingernails. Clean fingernails were one of his many obsessions. Dirty fingers drove him crazy, she'd reasoned, because, having trained as a mechanic in Haiti, he barely missed having his slender guitar-­playing fingers being dirty all his life.

"You didn't go to Haiti with her?" Elsie asked.

"You're right," he answered, drawing what Elsie heard as an endless breath. "I should have been with her."

Elsie's patient's eyes wandered down from the ceiling, where the blooming palm had sprinkled the skylight glass with a handful of brown seeds. Gaspard had been pretending not to hear, but was now looking directly at her. Restlessly shifting his weight from one side of the bed to the next, he paused now and then to catch his breath.

Gaspard had turned sixty-­five that day and before his lunch had requested a bottle of Champagne from his daughter—­ Champagne that he shouldn't be having, but for which he'd pleaded so much that his daughter had given in, on the condition that he would only take a few sips. The daughter, Mona, who was a decade younger than Elsie's thirty-six years, had come from New York to visit her father in Miami Lakes. She'd gone out to procure the Champagne and now she was back.

"Elsie, I need you to hang up," Mona said as she walked into the room and laid out three crystal Champagne flutes on a folding table by the bed.

"Call me soon," Elsie told Blaise.

After she hung up, Elsie moved closer to the sick man's spindly daughter. They were about the same height and size, but Elsie felt that she could be Mona's mother. This was perhaps due to her many years of taking care of others. She was a nurse's assistant, though no nurse was present on this particular job. She was there to keep Gaspard safe and comfortable, recording vital signs, feeding and grooming him, doing some light housework, and overall keeping him company between his twice-­weekly dialysis sessions, until he decided whether or not he would accept his daughter's offer of one of her kidneys. Mona had been approved as a donor, but Gaspard had still not made up his mind.

Mona poured the Champagne, and Elsie watched her closely as she handed a Champagne flute to her father.

"À la vie," Mona said, toasting her father. "To life."

That afternoon, Blaise called back to tell Elsie that Olivia's mother had heard from the kidnappers. The mother had asked to speak to Olivia, but her captors refused to put her on the phone.

Excerpted from Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat. Copyright © 2019 by Edwidge Danticat. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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